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Plan to meet the standard of care

This is an excerpt from Risk Management in Outdoor and Adventure Programs by Aram Attarian.

Standard of Care

Standard of care is a term that is commonly used in risk management. Whereas duty of care refers to an obligation to act toward others and the public, standard of care refers to the degree of attentiveness, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would exercise. Failure to meet the standard is negligence, and the person proven negligent is liable for any damages caused by such negligence. The standard is not subject to a precise definition and is judged on a case-by-case basis.


Certain standards for guides and outdoor leaders are established by professionals in the outdoor industry. Other nonprofessional standards may be established through laws and regulations. Also, the standard of care may vary based on the relationship between the parties. For example, a higher standard of care is applied in situations involving a compensated service (i.e., fee involved) than a gratuitous favor (no charge).


To meet the standard of care, guide and adventure program administrators and staff should make an effort to develop and deliver a safe and relevant educational curriculum; become familiar with and implement industry standards and guidelines; hire qualified and competent staff; create and implement a risk management plan; educate and make participants aware of and have them acknowledge the risks inherent in the program; and maintain appropriate staff and participant records (Cloutier & Valade, n.d.).


Guides and program staff are responsible for their participants. Participants look to them for instruction, guidance, and support so they can participate safely in program activities. Typically, this requires that the guide or instructor anticipate dangers, mistakes, and pitfalls and attempt to ensure that these risks do not materialize. The greater the degree of risk, the greater the instructor’s obligation to anticipate and avoid harm.

Learn more about Risk Management in Outdoor and Adventure Programs.